As Hunkele expected, Jackson aced the season-long internship, which included the added difficulties of navigating COVID. On February 1, 2021, Jackson became the first Black female athletic trainer to be hired in team history.
“It’s extremely rewarding and I just want women, especially women of color, to see that this is possible,” Jackson says. “You can do it even if the path is untraditional. Just do the work. Stay dedicated. Stay in touch with all those people that you need to stay in touch with and just do what you need to do to get what you want.
“It’s something that I always wanted, especially being so committed and so dedicated to this profession. I think it’s definitely the right fit. We have such a great staff and each and every day I learn something from them. It’s been a dream come true.”
“She’s fantastic at her job. And she earned it,” Hunkele says. “It’s a credit to her to fulfill that role (of being the first Black female athletic trainer). Sitting back and someone saying it, that’s a really inspiring thing to think about. But 100 percent I give the credit to her because she’s the one who made herself stand out. I want to give ourselves, the athletes, the team, everybody the greatest chance to have success. The sum of the parts is what’s going to give us the greatest chance. To me, she earned it with her dedication and passion and what she showed.”
Jackson was a basketball star at Emmaus High School before continuing her success on the hardwood at Shippensburg University. She was always curious about the medical profession and found her love of athletic training when she started working with the football team in her sophomore year.
“It’s just the atmosphere, the camaraderie that comes with it. There’s just a certain type of energy that comes with football and it’s always exciting. You never know what’s going to happen,” Jackson says.
She was hungry to learn anything and everything about the profession to become a well-faceted athletic trainer. She even minored in psychology at Shippensburg to help understand how to work with different types of personalities. Following her undergrad, she went to FIU to learn how to start and conduct her own research as well as various tenets of the industry ranging from entrepreneurship to finances to leadership. Her manifold of credentials ranges from being a certified athletic trainer to a performance enhancement specialist and features a special certification to work closely with and perform tasks under the supervision of an orthopedist. She can speak the same language as doctors, strength coaches, trainers, and – with her basketball background – athletes.
Fans will see athletic trainers on the field on gamedays carrying water bottles, but they are involved with the players from the time they join the team in helping with injury prevention to managing the rehab process to help them get back on the field. It’s fitting that the theme for Women’s History Month is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” That’s precisely what Jackson and the Eagles’ Sports Medicine and Performance Team provide.
“That is everything an athletic trainer should be from taking care of them the moment they step in the room and being passionate about providing the best care possible to the athletes,” she says. “I always knew I wanted to work with athletes and work with patients in some capacity and get them back to where they used to be, so I think athletic training was the perfect transition for me being a student-athlete. It’s so rewarding to see when the athletes have worked so hard to get back out on the field.”